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Artificial Regions

I’m writing this while waiting to go to the office, I’ll probably finish the post over the hours that I have to spare waiting for my tasks to complete. I’m still in Los Angeles and very happy to be.

We’re all pretty used to the artificial region limitations that Big Content force us to deal with: DVD and BluRay both have region-coding, the former actually having two region codings (a Japanese DVD would be Region 2 and NTSC, whereas Europe is under Region 2 but PAL). We’re also grown used to, although unhappy about, content store being limited by the country you live in — which is why many people, me included, wondered if Google forgot that a world exists outside of the US, as the recent rename of Android Market to Google Play Store forgets that their Music offering is limited to the United States.

But sometimes regionality comes to ludicrous levels. As I’ve said before I’m spending some time in the US, near Los Angeles, for work reasoons. The office I work in is just a staircase away from a Starbucks shop and I’m very happy about it since I love their coffee. My customer/employer also gave me the first day a Starbucks Card to use, and yesterday, after some time, I went to register it online… let’s ignore the fact that you can’t register it without an US address (since I sorta have one now, one could say).

If I want to charge the card in-store, my European MasterCard works just fine, although the Visa refuses, as usual, to work without CAP. If I go online, I can use my Italian Visa as well just fine. If I try to use PayPal, though, the website refuses the transaction because it only works with US-based account. Wha?

Okay nevermind, I register the card, fill in the form (and I’m now waiting to reach Gold status — I should be able to go there before leaving the US!), and see they have an Android application. Nice, so I don’t even have to get my wallet out.. but where is it?

From the Play Store (sigh!) I can’t find it; from the Starbucks website I can get to the web version of the store which tells me that none of my devices are compatible. And it’s not a matter of software version)

Indeed, since today I received a local AT&T SIM to use on my phone, I noticed the change: it was enough to have the phone report an American contract, and the region is unlocked for me, including, it seems, the Starbucks application that as of yesterday I was ineligible to use. Logical!

What’s next? I’ll enter a shoe shop and they’ll tell me that they can’t sold me Nike shoes (or anything else) because I’m not a permanent resident?

Comments 4
  1. I think you will have to declare purchases on re-entry to Italy. While here merchants will be glad to blithely take your money. Will they check yoiur sneakers?Try telling Google or anyone else you don’t have a mobile number 😉 I like it that way.

  2. It’s a bit hard to tell Google I don’t have a mobile number when my mobile phone runs Android… and it’s quite missing the point.

  3. Actually you don’t need a US SIM, if you clear all user data of the market/play app it will take your location from the country it thinks you are in (if they ever change that, just also take out your SIM, then they have no other choice really). That means you can use proxies to get access to a different countries’ store.

  4. Well, the binding to SIM is still nicer than Apple’s “binding to your billing address”…

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